After the Vintage High football team took a quick lead in Friday night’s season opener, Wood grabbed some momentum by forcing two straight punts at Memorial Stadium.

But the second one went only 11 yards, and the Crushers cashed in with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Bill Chaidez to a wide-open Billy Birdsall early in the second quarter.Still with a chance, the Wildcats got the ball again at their own 23-yard line and tried a pitch to use their speed in the open field. It went for a touchdown all right — by Vintage linebacker Pedja Zivkovic, who caught the pitch and turned it into a 25-yard fumble return touchdown.

It was perhaps the most backbreaking play of the night by the Crushers, whose 41-0 victory was by the largest margin in the 30-year history of the rivalry. It came a year after a 35-7 shellacking by the Wildcats in the first nonleague matchup of the former Monticello Empire League opponents.

“He kept pump-faking it and then he pitched it and I was right there,” said Zivkovic, who also scored on a 1-yard run at the end of Vintage’s eight-play opening drive and on a 20-yard run that capped the scoring late in the third quarter. “We worked hard all summer and it felt good to get a little payback after last year. We studied their playbook all summer, just constantly repping their plays. It’s a fun little rivalry we’ve got.”

The Wildcats — with first-year head coach Kirk Anderson and one of his assistants, Jorge Ruiz Chavez, both Napa High graduates — weren’t ready to give up yet. Kemani Curtis intercepted a Jacob Aaron pass and returned it to the Wood 45.

“We haven’t really had a chance to run an empty set against a full team because we didn’t run it in (the previous Friday’s) scrimmage,” Aaron said. “It’s a work in progress. By the time we get into league, it will work better for us.”

But Dylan Smith sacked Wildcats quarterback Jance Magaoay and, two plays later, Harrison Barrett picked off a Magaoay pass at the Crushers’ 32. Six plays later, Mauricio Castro darted up the middle and scored from 10 yards out. Aaron ran in his second two-point conversion of the night to make it 28-0.

Castro made it 34-0 midway through the third quarter with a juking, 18-yard scoring scamper. It came at the end of an unusual drive that started with an incomplete pass and a holding penalty. Aaron then found Sam Neal with a spectacular 43-yard completion to the Wood 23. Aaron then fumbled while trying to avoid a sack, but his center, Jack Odell, caught the ball in mid-air and advanced it to the 18.

“There was a lot of excitement before the game and I told them,” Castro said of his teammates, ‘Let’s come out here and set the tone early and let’s get these runs.’ Our linemen did a great job, pushed through and opened up holes for me. I’m proud of them. We dedicated this game to last year’s seniors.”

Chaidez, who led last year’s 9-0-1 JV squad with his running and throwing ability, and fellow junior Aaron, last year’s varsity starter, saw about equal time behind center.

“I love watching Bill,” Aaron said. “He’s just like me in that he loves to compete, he loves defense, he loves running the ball, and he’s a good passer.”

It was only the fourth win in Vintage’s last 11 meeting with the Wildcats.

“We just stick to our discipline and do our job, and we know if we do that we’re going to come out on top. That helped a lot tonight,” Aaron said. “I wasn’t expecting 41-0, but I definitely was coming into this game knowing we were going to win. Our defense did an excellent job tonight, staying disciplined and everybody rallying to the ball. It was great. It’s the first time I’ve never played defense in a game, but I don’t care as long as everybody’s doing their job and working hard.”

Wood appeared to be trying to have more balanced offense after running an explosive spread scheme under former head coach Carlos Meraz.

“We just played really slow tonight, in all phases,” Anderson said. “Credit to (the Crushers). They played really fast and it showed. This game’s hard enough as it is, so when you turn the ball over, it’s really hard to win. We’re going to take this one on the chin and move forward.”

Vintage head coach Dylan Leach, showing his passion for the game no matter who plays it, said he encouraged Wood players afterward to keep listening to their coaches.

“Let’s give Kirk some credit here,” Leach said of Anderson. “I told (his players) walking over, ‘Trust the process.’ Kirk’s a great coach and they’re going to be good. It’s a process to get to that point, just like it was for us.”

A smaller process involved Vintage’s kicking game. After his first three extra-point attempts were blocked, Tate Salese closed the scoring with a perfect kick through the uprights.

“I told him ‘Hey man, just kick it,’” Leach said of Salese. “With him being a soccer guy and having other obligations, we just didn’t have the time to practice with him as much as we would have liked. But he’s a great kid and he’s coachable. We’ll make it happen.”

Vintage will visit El Cerrito at 7 p.m. next Friday. The Gauchos opened their season at Marin Catholic on Saturday and trailed 28-0 at halftime.

Vintage JV 48, Wood 12

The Crushers rushed for 378 yards on 34 carries as a team in Friday night’s season-opening win.

“The offensive line was great,” Crushers head coach Kyle Schuh said, “and the defense played great stuffing their run game.”

Diego Davis and Tytan Bradley each rushed for two touchdowns, Noah Tanpoco and Mo Schaumkel each ran for one score, and Justin Ray hit Nate Materne with a 10-yard TD pass for Vintage.

First-time kicker Aaron Bolinas was “outstanding,” Schuh said, going 6 for 7 on extra points, while Bryce Powers snagged an interception.

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.